Olympics, Sports

In which all is said and done..

There were shouts, and there were murmurs. Allegations and rumors of scandal. She was robbed, she skated clean! How dare they dethrone a Queen? Conspiracies of host nations and a questionable panel of judges. In the aftermath, there is silver.

Another Olympics, another figure skating judging controversy.

Upon stepping foot into the NYC office on Thursday, before I could set my bag down, I saw the flash of red and steely gray eyes which could only mean little girl from Schindler’s List aka Lipnitskaya. And so down went my backpack, out came my laptop, and heygoodtoseeyousorrytalklater!, as I proceeded to work and watch intently from the lunch table, transfixed. And holy smokes, did the ladies bring it.

Yulia. Carolina. Adelina. Gracie. Ashley. Simultaneously wishing them well, or rather, well enough (with perhaps, the door left ever so ajar for a Queen to step through). And then it was time.

So, let’s talk controversy. Everyone’s crying foul, and I understand why. Twitter is a flitter, Yuna is trending. Koreans are outraged. An email arrives from my mother to petition the ISU. Yuna smiles politely, perhaps resignedly. But mostly of relief.

So what happened? This is the best scoring breakdown I’ve seen to compare element by element (courtesy of the NY Times):

Where Sotnikova Scored Higher

Element Sotnikova’s Points Kim’s Points Difference
Double-triple combination
Layback spin
Three-jump combination
Change-foot combination spin
Triple salchow
Triple flip
Double axel
Flying combination spin

Where Kim Scored Higher

Element Sotnikova’s Points Kim’s Points Difference
Additional triple
Triple lutz-triple toe
Skating skill and artistry

Adelina skated wonderfully – that’s a performance of a lifetime and good for her. To do that on home ice with the wall of sound that is your country behind you is an incredible thing. Sotnikova’s spins were better. The positioning, the extensions, the innovation. Her jumps were solid, incredibly athletic. Save for the two footed or stepping out of that third double loop in the jump combination (she was way too tilted to salvage that), that was a rock solid performance. She had energy and emotion and something to prove working in her favor. Also, let’s not forget she started 5 points higher than Yuna and Kostner on the scale of technical elements.

And then there was the Queen. Skating last to Adios Nonino, she floated through her program and skated regally – better than I’ve seen her in the post-Vancouver years. Ever artistic, always mesmerizing. She absolutely delivered. And yet.

Upon initial viewing, I actually thought Yuna had two-footed her triple lutz, so I was anxious, to say the least, going into the judges’ marks. The second primetime viewing revealed that she hadn’t – she skated clean. But some nagging feeling within me sensed a slight breeze – a window left slightly ajar.

Yuna’s jumps were gorgeous – a natural extension to every program she skates. Watching Sotnikova, it seemed like every other second was some jump combination. I wondered if Yuna’s technicality was enough. But then I realized why it felt that way. Adelina’s routine was athletic for sure, but it felt like element after landed element, whereas Yuna’s just flowed. The jumps were so seamless that it almost felt like they weren’t there. And in mentally running back through the jumps, she had just one fewer, but there’s such an incredible fluidity to her jumping, that they weren’t as blatant to me as her predecessor’s. She is, artistically, as Sandra Bezic states, “head and shoulders above everyone else.” But artistry and spark are two different things.

I see how points wise, Sotnikova could take the cake. Figure skating, despite talk of artistic merit, has long been a technical game. Case in point, flashback to Kwan vs. Lipinski in Nagano. But in the end, like Michelle in Nagano, she skated clean, a safer program, but she was better in seasons past. In SAT analogy terms, Yuna’s Piano Concerto in F : Adios Nonino :: Kwan’s Salome : Lyra Angelica. The choreography was just better in Vancouver, as were the delivery and heart. Those 2009-2010 vintage David Wilson programs were simply put, the best ever.

But when it came down to it, the magic had dissipated. Not like Vancouver. This program was wonderful, but a tad muted in comparison. That being said, would I have given her gold? Absolutely. But can I see how, sans scandal, she could have gotten silver? I can. Tara and Johnny are right in that it was Adelina’s Olympic moment. But that’s not to say I agree with everything that transpired.

A couple parting thoughts:

  • Yuna won on components, but just barely. Yuna’s artistry is unparalleled in that match up. A 0.09 differential is absurd. I thought she’d win gold on her vast components margin, but that was not the case.
  • That Adelina was within centimeters of Yuna’s Vancouver performance is concerning. That’s some serious overinflation right there. I can see how points wise, Sotnikova could take Sochi, but Yuna in Vancouver was light years beyond.
  • Mao Asada, with 8 triples including a triple axel, got a lower free skate score than Adelina. The 3x Axel may have been slightly under rotated, but even so. Mao’s free skate was among the best of the evening, both technically and lyrically.
  • I liked the old 6.0 scoring system. I miss the freedom it allowed. Now skaters have to skate smart, hack their way to points on a fully loaded program. The transparency into the countries assigning scores was part of the fun of it.

Almost 2 million people have signed the petition to contest the ladies’ free skate results, and as of now, I have not signed. I don’t currently plan to. She did what she came to do and left it all on the ice. And I am still enormously proud of her.

Three champions did their countries proud this week.

sochi fs medalists


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